Former astronaut Clayton Anderson might have conquered space, but politics in Nebraska could prove a little harder.
Anderson is one of several people who expressed interest last week in becoming the state's next lieutenant governor — a job that suddenly came open after Rick Sheehy resigned the office Feb. 2 in the wake of a cellphone scandal.
Unfortunately for Anderson and his Nebraska supporters, his candidacy ran into residency rules.
The state constitution requires that a person live in Nebraska for the previous five years before holding the job of lieutenant governor.
Anderson, originally from Ashland, lives in Houston. He plans to return to Nebraska now that he has retired from NASA and, although he has given up on being lieutenant governor, he has not given up on politics altogether.
“I'm looking for my next activity, looking to come back and return to the state of Nebraska,” said Anderson, who worked for NASA for 30 years and spent 167 days in space.
“I would like to think I have the capability to be an excellent leader. We just have to see how the future unfolds.”
Sheehy abruptly resigned after an investigation by The World-Herald found he had made more than 2,300 calls on a state-owned cellphone to four women during the past four years. None of the women was his wife.
Gov. Dave Heineman will choose Sheehy's successor.
He has said it could take a few weeks before he makes the appointment.
Several names have come to the forefront, including former State Sens. Tony Fulton of Lincoln, Chris Langemeier of Schuyler and Phil Erdman of Lincoln.
Other possible contenders mentioned include Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders.
Langemeier said he was interested and hoped to have a conversation with Heineman about the job, including the governor's stated request that the person who gets the job must promise not to run for governor in 2014.
Langemeier says he wants to know whether he could run for another position besides governor, if he were given the lieutenant governor's job.
“Does he mean not running for governor, or not running for anything?” said Langemeier.
Fulton said he has called Heineman and expressed an interest.
“I called the governor, and I told him I hope to be considered. That's the end of it. We'll see what happens,” said Fulton.
Sanders said she hasn't spoken to Heineman about the position and she's not sure whether she would take it. She said if the job were offered, she would talk to City Council members and constituents about whether it's “the right move.''
Sanders is two years into a four-year term as mayor. If she were appointed lieutenant governor, the City Council president would take over as mayor.
“The governor's a smart guy,” Sanders said. “He'll make the right choice.”
World-Herald staff writer Roseann Moring contributed to this report.
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